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Series / Nightingales

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L to R: Bell, Carter and Sarge

Nightingales is a British situation comedy set around the antics of three security guards working the night shift in a deserted office block. It was written by Paul Makin and produced by Alomo Productions for Channel 4 in 1990. Surreal and atmospheric, the show combined naturalistic dialogue with absurdist plots, as well as containing many allusions to theatre, particularly the works of Samuel Beckett and William Shakespeare.

The three guards are:

  • Carter (Robert Lindsay), a pseudo-intellectual whose aspirations were invariably frustrated;
  • "Ding Dong" Bell (David Threlfall), a moronic thug who is somewhat in awe of Carter; and
  • Sarge (James Ellis), an impossibly optimistic veteran watchman.

Not to be confused with a 1989 NBC Medical Drama of the same title.

Nightingales contains examples of:

  • Away in a Manger: "Silent Night" has a heavily pregnant woman named Mary arrive on Christmas Eve at the office block where the show is set. After assuring them she's not an allegory, she then proceeds to give birth to, among other things, a toaster, the Pope, Harold Pinter and a tandem.
  • British Brevity: Two seasons, one of 6 episodes and one of 7.
  • Building of Adventure: The action (such as it is) never moves out of the office block, and frequently never moves out of a single room.
  • Christmas Episode: In "Silent Night", a pregnant woman named Mary knocks on the office block door on Christmas Eve, but assures the boys that she is not an allegory. She's lying.
  • Once an Episode:
    • One of the main trio will knock on the door of whatever room one or both of the others are in and ask, "Anybody here?" To which the answer is always a quick chorus of "Nobody here but us chickens", complete with dance moves. If the characters are in a bad mood, they'll just grumble "chickens" and make a half-hearted stab at the dance.
    • Carter will wonder aloud what [insert name of famous person] is doing at that moment.
  • Power Suit Monkey: Terrence Oblong, a gorilla who joins the team for an episode.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: A lot of the humour is down to the boorish Ding Dong and pretentious Carter butting heads.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: "All at Sea" features the new inspector who rules with an iron fist. The rest of the episode plays out like an adaptation of Mutiny on the Bounty, complete with claustrophobic settings and raging storms as the three nightwatchmen hold increasingly tense meetings as they chafe under the inspector's rule until they can't stand it anymore.